Marketing Briefing: AR, VR in retail sector to persist in 2021

This is to give consumers the perfect shopping experience in their homes.

The “new normal” in the retail sector has led to a huge decrease in footfall amidst safety restrictions and a huge economic downturn.

Since the onset of the pandemic, retailers have innovated ways to manage their operations in an uncharted territory and to hook consumers despite a recovering economy. They have mainly relied on immersive technologies such as augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) to give consumers the perfect shopping experience in the comfort of their homes.

According to the latest report on consumer trends by Euromonitor International, technologies like AR and VR have helped consumers form new habits around shopping and socialising.

Brands like Nike, UNIQLO, and SK-II have already implemented both AR and VR technology by offering virtual foot size checking function for sneakers, in-store magic mirror to try on apparel items, as well as an AR-featured pop-up store.

Euromonitor International research manager Herbert Yum has noted that the use of AR and VR boomed in e-commerce in 2016, when companies like Sony and Google launched VR gears, allowing the virtual experience in gaming and other platforms.

Delivering virtually enabled at-home experiences remains imperative to drive e-commerce sales and gather data amidst the recovery of the retail industry, the research company also noted. Being able to try on and experience the product itself is crucial in making a purchase, especially for consumer goods.

“For consumer goods that product or service experience acting as a more important factor when making purchasing decisions, virtually enabled at-home experiences would then be an effective tool to fill such incapability of online shopping, hence helping drive e-commerce sales,” Yum said.

As such, businesses are using these technologies and processes to encourage consumers to safely visit onsite as well with the help of smart devices.

“Adopting mobile reservation systems, QR codes for touchless menus and payments, and in-store virtual fitting rooms are strategies companies are taking to minimise human interactions,” the Euromonitor report stated.

They can also offer services such as personal shopping appointments through video conferencing, VR travel experiences, and crafting personalised goods through artificial intelligence.

Moreover, consumers are growing accustomed to the inclusion of immersive technologies in their retail experience.

An Accenture survey found that over seven in 10 (71%) of Singaporean consumers would be more likely to buy from a brand that focuses on better experience using immersive technologies like AR and VR.

The survey also revealed that nearly three in five (58%) said that experiencing products before purchasing is their top motivation for trying immersive technologies.

Given the necessity of AR and VR in the midst of the “new normal”, the technology is most likely to be seen further in the retail experience as it becomes integral to the daily operations of retailers.

Whilst the trend of immersive technologies is rising, Yum described AR and VR to be in its “rapid developing phase” as most consumers are still having their “novice experience” with the technology.

“Untapped potential is huge as the technology advancement on future AR and VR hard and software would be the key determinator of the future growth of this segment,” he said.

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